Pro-life activists worry that two recent assaults on peaceful demonstrators, combined with ongoing vandalism of pro-life displays, indicate a growing trend of pro-abortion violence.
Authorities charged Gabriela Skwarko, a 23-year old student at Ryerson University in Toronto, with assault after she attacked pro-life demonstrators at a rally in Toronto on Oct. 1.
A video (WARNING: Video contains obscenity and violence) shows Skwarko, a member of the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective, shoving, dragging, and body-slamming pro-life demonstrators and throwing a metal hand truck at one. Katie Somers, a member of the Toronto Against Abortion group, had to take time off work due to injuries to her wrist and leg. Skwarko later turned herself in to Toronto police and will appear in court next month.
It’s one of the few times anyone has faced charges for assaulting a pro-life demonstrator, but it’s not the first time pro-lifers have dealt with violent opposition from pro-abortion advocates.
“I think it’s actually going to get worse before it gets better,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told me. “We saw when the women were clawing at the … doors [of the Supreme Court] when Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed … because they know exactly what it is they’re fighting for, and they’re not going to go quietly.”
The day before Skwarko’s attack, Jordan Hunt roundhouse kicked pro-life demonstrator Marie-Claire Bissonnette during another rally in Toronto. She caught the incident on camera. Authorities later arrested Hunt and charged him with multiple counts of assault and mischief.
On U.S. college campuses, the pushback from pro-abortion advocates has been less violent but still focused on silencing pro-lifers.
“We see this on campuses all the time, where pro-life students are being told they simply don’t have the right to speak out and they don’t have the right to form clubs or to host events on campuses just because they’re pro-life,” Hawkins said.
Her group has launched a website mapping vandalism of pro-life displays or chalk messages, as well as thefts of flyers, calling the destructive actions an epidemic on college campuses across the country.
Previously, Hawkins said, pro-abortion advocates on campus would just ignore pro-life events. Now “the theme of all this is ‘Stop the message.’ Stop the message from taking place. We don’t want to have this discussion here,” she said.
Violence against pro-lifers has happened in the United States, too.
In 2014, University of California, Santa Barbara, professor Mireille Miller-Young allegedly stole (WARNING: Video contains obscenity and violence) pro-life advocate Thrin Short’s sign and later repeatedly shoved and scratched her when Short asked for the sign back. Miller-Young later faced charges of theft, battery, and vandalism.
In May, a Planned Parenthood escort in Montgomery, Ala., broke an umbrella over pro-life demonstrator Daniel French’s head. The escort, Travis Jackson, assaulted French after also threatening his wife, Valarie. Abortion center workers incredibly pressed charges against the couple for destruction of property over the broken umbrella. A judge cleared the Frenches of any wrongdoing in September.
Last month, a patient escort working at a Planned Parenthood in Naples, Fla., was accused of repeatedly punching pro-life demonstrator Joe Alger. Emergency responders took the 65-year-old Alger to the hospital for injuries, but he did not press charges.
Pro-life demonstrators aren’t always peaceful, either. Last week, Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, interim CEO of the National Abortion Federation, expressed fear over the release of Rachelle Shannon from prison this month. Shannon shot and wounded abortionist George Tiller in 1993. Another activist later shot and killed him.
Leading pro-life groups condemned that violence, said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee: “The pro-life movement does not advocate violence, even against those who would kill unborn children.”